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“rip off and not a sanctuary” 2 of 5 stars
Review of Elephant Village Sanctuary Day Trips

Elephant Village Sanctuary Day Trips
Ban Xieng Lom, Luang Prabang, Laos
+856 71 252 417
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Certificate of Excellence 2014
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Attraction details
Owner description: Elephant Village in Luang Prabang was set up in 2003 and is now owned by a group of passioante Lao nationals. Our sales office is located on the main street in town close to the National Museum and our beautiful elephant camp is located next to the village Ban Xieng Lom. Elephant Village focuses on three objectives:1. Saving Elephants 2. Community Support 3. Nature Preservation. We take elephants out of the very dangerous logging industry and provide them with an alternative way of earning their income. We try to help the elephants which desperately need help the most such as older elephants and elephants which have injuries due to accidents. We currently have 14 elephants in our care including 2 baby elephants which will never have to work in the logging industry. We are also home to a female elephant called Mae Uak, who was injured when she stepped on a 'UXO' (Un-Exploded Ordinance) some time ago, before we rescued her. She is now happily living in our herd.
Useful Information: Activities for older children, Activities for young children, Bathroom facilities
London, United Kingdom
Reviewer
3 reviews 3 reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
9 helpful votes 9 helpful votes
“rip off and not a sanctuary”
2 of 5 stars Reviewed August 11, 2014

We booked a full day mahout training day. The training lasted all of about 5 minutes, the 1 hour elephant trek was 30 minutes and the part we were really looking forward to the bathing was 10 minutes. It wasn't a busy day, in fact we were practically the only people there! Most of the day we were left to our own devises wandering round the camp.

I also really question whether it really is a sanctuary..... There are only ten elephants, one of which has just had a baby which is a boy. When I asked a member of staff if they intended breeding more elephants he said yes. Surely if it was a sanctuary they would be focusing their money and time on elephants in need rather than breeding more? Also there were signs up asking people to donate money to 'buy' elephants for the sanctuary for the logging industry yet on site there is a state of the art restaurant and swimming pool. Doesn't really add up to me

Visited June 2014
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Elephant V, Public Relations Manager at Elephant Village Sanctuary Day Trips, responded to this review, August 13, 2014
Dear Guest, we are sorry that you did not enjoy your trip as best that you could have.

Unfortunately, we are dependent on several factors from the speed of the elephant to the conditions of the day.

We tell our sales staff to make it clear that the elephant ride is 3 km. However, if you were told otherwise, we apologize and will meet with all our sales staff to make this point clear to them.

We do not want to overwork our elephants and so include other activities such as going to Tad Se waterfalls so our elephants go back into the jungle in the afternoon. If you were not happy with the elephant bathing activity we can only apologize, but this is usually the part of the tour that many people enjoy the most.

With regards to one of our staff members telling you that we will breed more, this is not true and we are going to gain 2 more elephants soon, both from the logging industry.

We have recently hired new guides who may not be clear with all the information about our camp. Our training is ongoing and we will bring this up in our next meeting so we thank you for bringing this to our attention.

Our camp was built in 2003 by a German expat who put in his own money to create the camp and design something unique. We also make it known in our name that we are also a resort, and the swimming pool and dining facilities are for customers who decide to do an overnight tour. They are also open to anyone from outside who wishes to pay to use our facilities, of which the money gets reinvested into our camp and elephant care.

Once again we are very sorry that you did not enjoy your time with us but wish you safe travels.

Kind Regards,
Elephant Village Team
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Da Nang, Vietnam
Senior Contributor
33 reviews 33 reviews
16 attraction reviews
Reviews in 16 cities Reviews in 16 cities
48 helpful votes 48 helpful votes
“Great experience, happy elephants!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 11, 2014

I was really wary of doing this, as I've read about other outfits who really mistreat the elephants and I feel bad riding them (and, yeah, I feel bad riding horses, too I'm just a sap) but I have done it before so I didn't think this would be that exceptional. But you know what? I WAS WRONG. This was unbelievably fun, the highlight of my trip to Laos, and just surprised me and exceeded my expectations at every turn. I did the half day tour.

So, first of all I would like to give kudos to whatever salesperson answered my emails. I was still waffling on the idea of taking a tour (until a friend from home texted me and was like "What is wrong with you? Why is this a question. DO IT.") and the salesperson emailed me back promptly (even a little outside of office hours, I believe) and was basically no-pressure. He sent me all the pricing and tour options I had requested and made it easy for me to book my tour while I was still in Vietnam or to wait and book it once I arrived. Their not being high-pressure really motivated me to book it.

The tour itself: So you ride around a 3k trail with your mahout, and it's steep and windy and you get these gorgeous views of the jungle and Mekong, and it was muddy and steep and I really marveled at the elephant's ability to balance (I would have fallen if I had been walking through all that mud!) My mahout was ever-so-gentle with his elephant, even when he wanted to stop to snack on some leaves nearby. I truly felt like the elephants are well taken care of and happy, which was very important to me. I even got to ride the elephant's neck and "be a mahout" for a little while (very unique experience, also requires good balance, and made me really appreciate the mahout's job!) After your ride the elephant makes a beeline for the food, and you can buy a big bunch of bananas to give him treats for an extra $1. They love bananas and this is really fun--it's worth the dollar.

Afterwards we went on a boat ride and saw Maxi, the baby elephant, fed him and his mom some bananas (SO STINKING CUTE!) and then took a boat ride to the most gorgeous waterfalls I have ever seen. There are also elephants at the falls, (and you can ride them in the water) and those elephants looked really sad. Obviously I didn't ride them and can't say but their mahouts had these sharp training tools (they say elephants have a thick skin, but since our mahouts just gently nudged our rides, I was really shocked and discouraged by this other outfit). Anyway, so the falls are breathtaking and just cool enough to be refreshing. I jumped off of a rope swing into the water and I'm pretty sure that those waterfalls are exactly what heaven looks like.

Then you go back and have a delicious lunch overlooking the Mekong and wonder what you did to be so lucky in life.

Visited August 2014
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Elephant V, Public Relations Manager at Elephant Village Sanctuary Day Trips, responded to this review, August 11, 2014
Dear Guest,

Thank you for writing such a nice review, we appreciate every review but it is reviews like this that make us feel proud to continue trying our hardest to provide a great experience for our guests.

We make sure not to be high pressure when people ask about our tours because we do not want to overly commercialize the fact that we are working with living animals who have previously been working in the logging industry.

We also make sure to continually educate our guides and mahouts in the safe treatments of our elephants to make sure that they are looked after with the respect they deserve.

Furthermore, you are have come at a great time as it is the rainy season now and the Tad Se waterfalls are starting to fill up and are really showing their splendid beauty.

We are absolutely thrilled that you had an amazing time with us and we hope that you can visit us again sometime in the future!

Kind Regards,
Elephant Village Team
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Exeter, United Kingdom
Senior Contributor
33 reviews 33 reviews
9 attraction reviews
Reviews in 15 cities Reviews in 15 cities
33 helpful votes 33 helpful votes
“Amazing”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 10, 2014

We did the 1 day mahout which I thoroughly recommend - was pricey but was also one of the best things we did in Laos. You really get a sense that they care for the elephants well, learning to ride bareback on its neck was a truly unique experience, as was bathing the elephants. The ride itself was a good length with breathtaking jungle/mountain views. You certainly get some good elephant time with the mahout day.

Lunch was very very nice, so was visiting Maxi the baby - a boat trip to Tad Sae falls was a nice added touch... Wouldn't have fitted the waterfalls in otherwise and an hour there is all you really need.

Couldn't recommend this place more highly.

Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Elephant V, Public Relations Manager at Elephant Village Sanctuary Day Trips, responded to this review, August 13, 2014
Dear Guest,

Thank you for your review and we are extremely pleased that you enjoyed your time with us.

The mahout day is our most popular and certainly many of our guests really enjoy bathing their elephant!

We are also very fortunate to have Maxi as part of our herd because it means that we can ensure that he will spend his life away from the logging industry and not have to worry about going through the same experiences his mother went through.

Once again we thank you for your review and hope that you have a very enjoyable rest of your trip.

Kind Regards,
Elephant Village Team
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Honolulu
Reviewer
5 reviews 5 reviews
3 attraction reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
8 helpful votes 8 helpful votes
“Not enough elephants, don't stay overnight”
2 of 5 stars Reviewed August 10, 2014

We did two-day Mahout (M2D) tour and were not impressed.

First let me say that our family are experienced with elephant camps having done a three day camp in Thailand and numerous elephant rides around Chiang Mai.

Summary;
• Not enough elephants, so they are over-worked and this was our BIGGEST complaint. The elephants as a result do not seem very happy and frequently were non-cooperative
• Overnight not worth it as you get almost no extra time with elephants
• Avoid going during rainy season as you will get covered in mud
• Accommodations are a 10-15 minute walk from camp so if it is raining you will get soaked and mud spattered
• Staff are very nice and helpful

Visited August 2014

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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Elephant V, Public Relations Manager at Elephant Village Sanctuary Day Trips, responded to this review, August 11, 2014
Dear Guest,

We take all reviews very seriously and are very sorry that you didn't have the best possible time.

We make sure to only work our elephants until the afternoon so that they are not overworked. However we provide other activities such as going upriver in our longboats to Tad Se waterfalls so our guests can enjoy seeing different things in Luang Prabang, and we do make sure to clearly state this in our itineraries.

Unfortunately rainy season certainly does involve a lot of rain, and as a result of being in the middle of the jungle it can get quite muddy. But we provide umbrellas for our guests and again state in our itineraries to bring adequate clothing.

We are sorry that you did not enjoy our tour because we really want everyone to enjoy their time with us and we do care about our guests reviews, both good and bad and aim to improve with each comment.

We wish you safe travels and an enjoyable rest of your trip.

Kind Regards,
Elephant Village Team
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Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Senior Reviewer
10 reviews 10 reviews
4 attraction reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
15 helpful votes 15 helpful votes
“An absolute highlight of our trip - a must do if you're in Luang Prabang”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 10, 2014

We loved it. We booked the '1 day Mahout Experience' through Tiger Trail in Luang Prabang. It wasn't cheap for a family of 5, but it was worth every penny.

The pickup from our hotel worked well, it was a short drive from Luang Prabang (less than an hour). The Elephant Village site itself is absolutely lovely. Aside from the fact that there are 11 elephants just strolling round, the setting by the side of the Nam Khan river is simply beautiful and clearly very well maintained.

The staff were lovely, very hospitable. And it's clear that these elephants are very well cared for by the mahouts. You get a chance to sit on the elephants and ride them with the mahouts (for around an hour in total during the day), but it's not an elephant trek if that's what you're looking for.

One of the most satisfying parts of the day is that you feel that you're helping to protect and sustain the dwindling elephant community. And when you see the new addition to the heard (little Maxi - born in May 2013), it will make your heart skip a beat. You feel that you're enjoying the company of these tremendous creatures in a non-exploitative way, which is more than can be said for many 'elephant experiences' in south-east Asia.

I was really surprised by some of the more negative reviews on Tripadvisor which seem to suggest otherwise.

We spent 4 weeks in Indochina and the absolute highlight was bathing the elephants in the river! Great fun - one of them kept spraying us through its trunk!

The day also includes a short boat trip down the Nam Khan river to the local falls. Again an enjoyable element to the day. Bring your swimmers if you want to enjoy the beautiful blue water which pools beneath the falls.

Oh, and the lunch was nice too. Again helped by the beautiful setting!

Visited July 2014
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Elephant V, Public Relations Manager at Elephant Village Sanctuary Day Trips, responded to this review, August 11, 2014
Dear Guest,

Thank you taking the time to write a review and we really love to hear about our guests having a brilliant time.

We also appreciate that you mention our guides because we always striving to improve our service and we are proud to have such great employees who are part of this.

We make sure our elephants receive daily checks and we try to educate our mahouts in the correct way to control their elephants.

We certainly do try our best to maintain the Asian elephant, however this is becoming increasingly more expensive every year so we are very fortunate to have Maxi born in our camp and away from the logging industry!

Many guests also comment that washing our elephants in the Namkhan river is the highlight of their tour, which is great because it means our elephants remain very clean!

We hope that you had a fantastic trip and will visit us again if ever in Laos once more.

Kind Regards,
Elephant Village Team
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